After being awoken with breakfast in bed (where "breakfast" equals "some extra who's been exsanguinated because, das Vampeeeeer!" and "bed" equals "a spike-filled coffin that would not be out of place in a mid-1990s Nine Inch Nails video"), our boy Vlad shakes off the urge to hit the snooze button and reinvents himself as American industrialist Alexander Grayson. The period: the 1880s.
Here's where my notes say "tedious ball" – it's sort of what would happen if you had Baz Luhrman's sensibilities and Macklemore's thrift shop budget. Anyway, at this "tell, don't show" wingding, "Alexander" meets Mina Murray, who reminds him of a lady who loved him back when he had a ridiculous ponytail. And then we discover that Alexander claims to have invented a steampunk version of wireless electricity. Because that Dracula, he abhors the pollution caused by fossil fuels? Anyway, some stuffed shirt threatens Alexander all, "You'll never do business in this town," and so Alexander introduces him to the latest version of a hostile takeover, i.e. ripping out his throat.
And thus do we get introduced to the shadowy conspiracy The Order of the Dragon, who appear to be meeting under cover of darkness to speak in terrible accents and do vague things that … well, don't really seem to affect history or progress one way or the other, beyond turning Dracula into Dracula way back when.
Since this is a pilot, we also get introduced to tons of soon-to-be-regular characters. Mina's a medical student, and it just so happens that her anatomy professor is one Van Helsing, who is given to making all manner of gnomic pronouncements about how "the heart never lies." This is, of course, meant to telegraph how Van Helsing knows more than he lets on and he can tell Mina really has the hots for Dracula and not her boring journalist boyfriend. Also, she may possibly be the reincarnated iteration of Dracula's dead wife.
In the final moments of the episode, we find out that Van Helsing is the one who revived Dracula in the opening scenes of the episode, and now they're a Goth Odd Couple who are teaming up to take down the Order of the Dragon.
The show begins with the time-honored convention of intrepid adventurers – those fearless explorers, undaunted by either physical hardship or paranormal arcana – breaking into an underground tomb which is, of course, miraculously undisturbed despite being largely dust-free and filled with fresh air. The sarcophagus in the center of the tomb is covered in the type of exceedingly obvious runes that convey, with wordless clarity, how very be-fanged and bloodthirsty the contents within must be.
"How famished you must be," muses the cat with the accent, rather superfluously. The desiccated corpse to whom he is speaking does not, alas, open its mouth and emit a puff of dust in response. Understandable – the corpse jerky is pinned in place by several iron spikes. Accent Guy is all, "But where are my manners, O corpse jerky? May I offer you a light snack?" and promptly kills his avaricious co-grave robber. (Or is that grave co-robber?) As the nameless schmuck's blood runs out of his carotid artery, Accent Guy intones, "The blood is the life," which also happens to be the title of this pilot episode. I hope every episode is named after some clunky exposition!
Anyway, the blood plus a few judiciously pulled levers means that Dracula is up and bearing an uncanny, un-perforated resemblance to Jonathan Rhys Meyers in no time. He then rises out of a bathtub surrounded in candles, as it is apparently every vampire's fondest desire to place themselves in tableaux last seen on MTV in 1988.
A scene later, we have established three things: It is now 1896, Dracula has been keeping up with his core workouts and he is one sharp-dressed vampire. I have always wondered: Since vampires do not have reflections, do their clothes? Since their clothes are not also vampires? So do vampires have the disquieting experience of seeing an empty suit of clothing floating in the mirror? How would one adjust for fit? Or see if a particular color suited?
The answer is, of course, to hire an omnipotent, frighteningly capable butler. This particular version is named Renfield. He's been photographing Dracula's London guests for the wingding that Dracula is apparently throwing. (Another vampire question: Are parties their version of the Golden Corral buffet? Endless variety! All you can eat!) There's also a prototype ready for demonstration, and Renfield corrects Dracula's British pronunciation of the word "schedule," with Dracula favoring the elegant "SHED-yule" while Renfield reminds him that if he's going to masquerade as a rube Yankee, he needs to pronounce the word "SKED-yule." Renfield exposits, "From this day forward, you are an American industrialist." Dracula says, in an accent so broadly "American" as to veer into parody, "As American as God, Guns and bourbon. As SKED-yuled." "Very good, sir," Renfield rumbles. After he leaves, we find out that Dracula is now planning on introducing himself as Alexander Grayson. Hands up, all you Revenge viewers who just snickered a little at this choice in surnames.